KARACHI: US Senator John F Kerry urged the State Department to tighten controls over the $1.45 billion in aid to Pakistan this year over fears of misappropriation.
The senator warned that if the money is squandered or stolen, a massive five-year effort by the US to help Pakistanis could collapse, says The Boston Globe.
The Massachusetts Democrat wrote a letter to The Boston Globe, elucidating the fear among the Pakistani population that the funds will merely enrich the corrupt elite.
“Channeling so much of the money through untested institutions so quickly could serve to confirm these suspicions,’’ he said. The aid is part of a landmark, five-year $7.5 billion assistance package to Pakistan. It is aimed at trying to roll back extremism by improving the lives of ordinary citizens through greater access to water, energy, education, and health care, as well as bolstering Pakistan’s fledging democratic government.
Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, intends to funnel more than 50 per cent of the funds directly through Pakistan’s government or local organisations, bypassing American organisations and companies that the US usually hires to deliver aid abroad.
Kerry however fears that Pakistani organisations might not be ready yet to effectively spend so much money and that incidents of corruption in Pakistan will make accountability a challenge.
“The danger is much greater than merely the possibility of a portion of funds being poorly spent,’’ he wrote in a letter addressed to Holbrooke. Referring to the aid bill that bears his name, he wrote: “lf significant portions of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman funds are, for example, siphoned off to private bank accounts, political support for continued appropriation of the money could evaporate in Washington and Pakistan.’’
Holbrooke’s office said it is seeking the best way to provide the most benefit. “We’re always open to ways to operate in a manner that enhances sustainability, transparency, and accountability, as Senator Kerry has called for, and which are already core precepts that we have built into our assistance programs,’’ said Dan Feldman, Holbrooke’s deputy.
The letter urges more attention on Pakistan’s criminal justice system and greater coordination with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, which have spent decades trying to build dams and improve the water delivery systems in Pakistan.
“This process is still largely opaque to the broader public, including our Pakistani friends and partners,’’ he wrote. “This lack of transparency can generate suspicion and distrust, defeating the core intent’’ of the aid.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 29th, 2010.